Frederick Exley was born in Watertown, New York, on March 28, 1929. He grew up in the shadow of his father, a star athlete in the small town. The fame of the father would later haunt the son's writings. Exley received a B.A. from the University of Southern California in 1953. Exley drew heavily on his own life experiences of alcoholism, two broken marriages, a number of sexual encounters, a suicide attempt, and three stays in mental hospitals. The first piece of his trilogy, A Fan's Notes: A Fictional Memoir, was published in 1968 and won the William Faulkner Award. His other works included Pages from a Cold Island and Last Notes from Home. He died of a stroke on June 17, 1992 at the age of 63.